20 Things To Do In Topeka Ks

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Topeka is the seat of governance for the state of Kansas and is the state’s capital city. Topeka is not the largest city in the state, but it is perhaps its most significant, both culturally and historically, as it was in Topeka, where the Brown v. Board of Education case changed the course of history by ending racial segregation in the US public school system during the 20th century.

A city on the banks of the Kansas River, Topeka’s golden era was during the Oregon Trail migration when the city grew into a vital hub for travellers heading west. Today, Topeka has a buzzing art and outdoor community celebrating the city’s rich past and bright future. Topeka is a delightful city, filled with attractions and landmarks and less than an hour’s drive from Kansas City. Here are some things to do in Topeka.

Topeka, Kansas

20 Things To Do In Topeka

topeka kansas aerial view with state capitol rising above the skyline
Looking for things to do in Topeka Ks? Here are some attractions to get you started.

1- Wander Around Great Overland Station

Constructed over two years between 1925 and 1927, the Great Overland Station is the former train station of Topeka.

Listed on the Register of Historic Places, the Great Overland Station was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood and was a passenger depot for the Union Pacific Railroad.

The Great Overland Station was transformed into office space and later a museum following the decline of Union Pacific passengers in Topeka, however, the impressive terminal of the Great Overland Station remains as beautiful today as on its opening day.

Great Overland Station is at 200 NW Railroad St, Topeka, KS 66608.

2- Gaze At The Kansas State Capitol’s Dome

free things to do in topeka ks
The entrance to State Capitol Building in Topeka at night.

The seat of power for Kansas, the Kansas State Capitol Building, is a stunning piece of French Renaissance architecture that took 37 years to complete, from 1866 to 1903.

The Kansas State Capitol Building was designed by Edward Townsend Mix and John G. Haskell and has an impressive 304-foot (93 m) dome that’s taller than the dome atop the United States Capitol.

Visitors to the Kansas State Capitol Building can tour the structure all the way to the top of the dome.

It’s one of the few state capitols to permit such tours, making it a fantastic destination to visit while spending time in Topeka.

Kansas State Capitol Building is at SW 8th & SW Van Buren St, Topeka, KS 66612.

3- Explore Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

The former Monroe Elementary School was one of four schools in Topeka that were desegregated following the 1954 Supreme Court ruling to end public school segregation and is the site of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site.

After the elementary school permanently closed in 1974, the site was bought by the Trust for Public Land and listed as a National Historic Landmark.

The school was where African-American resident Oliver Brown’s daughter was refused enrolment despite being a resident, kicking off a heated debate across the country which ended racial segregation in all public schools across the United States.

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site is at 1515 SE Monroe St, Topeka, KS 66612.

4- Watch A Race At Heartland Motorsports Park

The Heartland Motorsports Park is Topeka’s premier motorsports venue and is to the south of the city’s airport.

This versatile racetrack was opened in 1989 and features a road track with four configurations, a clay race oval, an off-road course, and a ΒΌ-mile drag strip.

The venue’s top-class amenities and great track conditions ensure that Heartland Motorsports Park’s annual calendar is filled with events from NASCAR, ARCA, IMSA, and CCA National Runoffs.

Heartland Motorsports Park is at 7530 SW Topeka Blvd, Topeka, KS 66619.

5- Enjoy The Outdoors At Lake Shawnee

The manmade Lake Shawnee was built between 1935 and 1939 as a Works Progress Administration project by over 5,000 local fishermen.

The lake forms part of a 1,100 acre (445 ha) park that welcomes over a million visitors annually and is filled with all sorts of outdoor attractions.

Lake Shawnee is a fantastic place to go camping, enjoy the lake’s beach, take the family out for a picnic, or rent a boat and enjoy the lake up close.

Complete with volleyball courts, a family sports complex, boat rental facilities, formal gardens, and a heated fishing dock, the lake is a fantastic place to visit in Topeka.

Lake Shawnee is at 3137 SE 29th St, Topeka, KS 66605.

6- Visit Topeka Zoo

things to do topeka kansas zoo
Exploring the zoo is another thing to do in Topeka.

Situated within Topeka’s Gage Park, the Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center was established in 1933, despite receiving its first exhibit for large mammals in 1966.

The zoo has since been renovated and expanded several times and features a wide collection of species to see and learn about.

Some of the more popular attractions in the Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center include the Kansas Carnivores, the Discovering Apes, the Black Bear Woods, the Jungle Cats, and the zoo’s indoor tropical rainforest, the first in the United States.

Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center is at 635 SW Gage Blvd, Topeka, KS 66606.

7- See The Tulips In Ted Ensley Gardens

topeka things to do
Attending the tulip festival is one of the things to do in Topeka to make your heart sing.

Perched on the western shore of lake Shawnee, the Ted Ensley Gardens covers more than 20 acres (8 ha) and is filled with winding nature trails, a large pagoda, and a gazebo.

The Ted Ensley Gardens are respected among the world’s horticultural societies and feature over 1,200 perennials and 300 varieties of roses, annuals, shrubs and trees.

One of the best times to visit the Ted Ensley Gardens is during April when the gardens’ 100,000 tulips are in full bloom for all to see.

Ted Ensley Gardens is at 3650 SE West Edge Rd, Topeka, KS 66605.

8- See Historic Aircraft At The Combat Air Museum

things to do in topeka this weekend Exhibition museum of the old army combat fighter aircraft against the background of the city.
One of the things to do in Topeka is to visit the Combat Air Museum.

The Combat Air Museum is conveniently located at the Topeka Regional Airport, formerly the Forbes Air Force Base.

It is a spacious venue dedicated to exhibiting, collecting, and preserving all things related to the US Air Force and American aviation history.

The Combat Air Museum was established in 1976 and is housed inside two repurposed hangars at the airport.

The museum’s collection includes 36 different aircraft, most of which are military, from WWI to the present day, helicopters, vehicles, and all sorts of artefacts related to aviation in the United States.

Combat Air Museum is at 7016 SE Forbes Ave, Topeka, KS 66619.

9- Step Back In History At Old Prairie Town

The Old Prairie Town at Ward-Meade Historic Site preserves and celebrates Topeka’s humble beginnings as a stopover destination for trailblazers on the Oregon Trail during the 1800s.

The site’s top attraction is the 1870 mansion, the home of Anthony Ward, a wheelwright who made his fortune with sand rights along the Kansas River.

Purchased by the city of Topeka during the 1960s, the venue now includes a 2.5 acre (1 ha) botanical garden among the 19th-century Everest Church, Victor Schoolhouse, railroad depot, caboose, and general store.

Old Prairie Town at Ward-Meade Historic Site is at 124 NW Fillmore St, Topeka, KS 66606.

10- Visit The Evel Knievel Museum

Officially recognised by the Evel Knievel estate, the Evel Knievel Museum is home to the most extensive collection of authentic artefacts and memorabilia of the world-famous daredevil than any other of its kind in the world.

Established in Topeka, the site where Knievel’s beloved truck, ‘Big Red’, was restored, the museum’s 1,000 artefacts are organised in chronological order, so visitors can trace the daredevil’s life as it happened.

Some of the museum’s best things to see include the interactive X-ray exhibit showcasing the daredevil’s many injuries, stunt bikes, outfits, and helmets worn by Knievel.

Evel Knievel Museum is at 2047 SW Topeka Blvd, Topeka, KS 66612.

11- Visit The Museum of the Kansas National Guard

things to do in topeka today
Topeka Kansas downtown at night.

The Museum of the Kansas National Guard honours and celebrates the history and impact of the Kansas National Guard and its members who have served the state of Kansas and the United States.

Opened in 1997, the museum displays all sorts of artefacts and exhibits from the Kansas National Guard’s history stretching back to 1855.

Exhibits include helicopters, tanks, a Howitzer cannon, and artefacts from the Civil and Gulf wars.

The museum is at 125 SE Airport Dr, Topeka, KS 66619.

12- See A Show At Topeka Performing Arts Center

things to do in topeka ks arts
Attending a musical performance is one of the things to do in Topeka today.

The Topeka Performing Arts Center puts on live theatre, music, dance, and other performances inside the art deco 1930s Municipal Auditorium recently renovated to include state-of-the-art facilities.

It has a main auditorium, a smaller 120-seat theatre called the Hussey Playhouse and the Hill’s Festival Hall is a banquet hall on the building’s lower level.

The venue is a delight to visit and hosts several events and outreach programs throughout the year.

Topeka Performing Arts Center is at 214 SE 8th Ave, Topeka, KS 66603.

13- Learn Something New At Kansas Museum of History

things to do in topeka ks
Topeka Kansas downtown at night.

Established in the 1980s by the Kansas Historical Society to house their ever-expanding collection, the Kansas Museum of History is perched on an 80-acre (32 ha) parcel of land close to the Potawatomi Mission.

The museum’s exhibits take visitors on a chronological timeline of Kansas’ history, from the Native American tribes who called the state home to the present day.

The Kansas Museum of History has various displays and artefacts, including Dwight D. Eisenhower’s WWII field jacket, William Allen White’s printing press, and Custer’s riding boots.

Kansas Museum of History is at 6425 SW 6th Ave, Topeka, KS 66615.

14- Explore Nature At Kaw River State Park

Perched on the banks of the Kansas River’s southern bend near Cedar Crest and MacLennan Park, the 76-acre (31 ha) Kaw River State Park is a scenic outdoor wonderland filled with all sorts of fun recreational activities to enjoy.

The Kaw River State Park has nature trails where visitors can bike, hike or jog past some of Kansas’ most stunning landscapes.

The park also provides access to the Kansas River, where you can kayak, fish, or spot animals such as eagles, deer, and turkey.

Kaw River State Park is at 300 SW Wanamaker Road, Topeka, Kansas 66606.

15- Admire The Grandeur Of Cedar Crest

To the west of Downtown Topeka, Cedar Crest is the official residence of the governor of Kansas.

Built in 1928, on 244 acres (99 ha) overlooking the Kansas River, Cedar Crest is a stunning French-style design surrounded by ponds, nature trails, and lush gardens.

The estate was a gift to the state of Kansas in 1955 and converted into the Governor’s Residence in 1962.

Renovated in 1990 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Cedar Crest and the surrounding MacLennan Park can be toured by interested visitors and are one of Topeka’s top places to visit.

Cedar Crest is at 1 SW Cedar Crest Road, Topeka, KS 66606.

16- Explore The Attractions At Gage Park

Established in 1899, Gage Park is a beautiful 160-acre (65 ha) urban park that is one of Topeka’s most significant, featuring several attractions bound to delight visitors of all ages.

Gage Park’s popular Reinisch Rose Garden was established in 1930 and is a wedding and gathering venue with bright blooms of roses on display during spring.

Some of Gage Park’s other attractions include an outdoor theatre, the Topeka Zoo, and the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center.

Gage Park is at 635 SW Gage Blvd, Topeka, KS 66606.

17- Shop In The NOTO District

things to do in topeka
Wandering around the city is one of the best things to do in Topeka to get your bearings.

The NOTO Arts & Entertainment District is a popular arts, dining, and shopping venue in the historic North Topeka area.

The district is managed by a non-profit organisation dedicated to the economic and cultural growth of Kansas and the Midwest.

It’s filled with shops selling locally produced art, jewellery, fashion, decorations, antiques and art classes.

The NOTO Arts & Entertainment District is an excellent Topeka neighbourhood to stroll through and is one of the best places to visit in Topeka.

NOTO Arts & Entertainment District is at 935 N. Kansas Avenue, Topeka, Kansas 66608.

18- Take The Kids To The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center

Situated on a 4.5-acre (2 ha) plot of land inside Topeka’s Gage Park, the 15,708 square foot (1459 m2) Kansas Children’s Discovery Center is one of Topeka’s most entertaining venues for families travelling with children.

This state-of-the-art venue was opened in 2011 and features several hands-on, interactive exhibits for kids to explore and learn about all sorts of topics, such as biology, science, and art.

From its bike paths and obstacle courses to its pretend grocery store and restaurant, the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center is an absolute delight for the little ones.

Kansas Children’s Discovery Center is at 4400 SW 10th Ave, Topeka, KS 66604.

19- Watch A Performance At Topeka Civic Theatre

family things to do in topeka ks
First Presbyterian Church in Topeka at sunrise.

The Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy is a historic and culturally significant Topeka landmark that has been entertaining visitors with impressive plays, musicals, and improv performances since 1936.

Holding the record of the oldest continuously operating dinner theatre in the United States, the Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy hosts top-quality productions such as Shakespeare, A Christmas Carrol, and Bonnie and Clyde, among others.

The venue has three stages – the Mainstage Theater, the Helen Hocker Theater, and the Oldfather Theater – where live shows are performed throughout the year.

Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy is at 3028 SW 8th Ave, Topeka, KS 66606.

20- Admire Art At Mulvane Art Museum

The stunning Mulvane Art Museum falls under the management of Topeka’s Washburn University, which opened its doors in 1924 thanks to a generous donation from local businessman Joab R. Mulvane.

The Mulvane Art Museum is one of the oldest art museums west of the Mississippi.

It features an impressive collection of over 4,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, and decorative art pieces for visitors to enjoy.

Despite an emphasis on works from the United States Mountain Plains region, the Mulvane Art Museum’s displays are sourced from across the world, making the venue an incredible place to visit for art buffs.

Mulvane Art Museum is at 1700 SW Jewell Ave, Topeka, KS 66621.